Introduction

This draft consultation strategy builds on the engagement that AECoW has carried out with stakeholders during its Strategy period 2018 – 2021. It provides the foundation of, and strategic direction for, its next Strategy period 2022 – 25 and it will be approved by the Management Committee during Q2 of 2021.

AECoW intends to broaden its consultation into the wider development, and construction, industries across the UK through various activities under each of its four Priority Action Plans in its Strategy. Please refer to Flow Diagram 1: AECoW Consultation Strategy. Therefore, this consultation strategy aims to streamline, and consolidate, engagement, whereby aspects of it, cascade, and filter, down into relevant Priority Actions Plan.

Throughout the Strategy period 2018 – 2021, AECoW engaged with various stakeholders to define, and promote, the Environmental Clerk of Works (EnCoW) role. The main aim is to achieve separation of design, implementation and compliance monitoring roles, as similarly provided for in the Construction and Design Manual Regulations 2015, and advocated by the Institute of Clerks of Works and Construction Inspectorate (ICWCI). This approach recognises that EnCoW are responsible for monitoring compliance of the Contractor, which are traditionally commissioned by the Developer / Employer to independently achieve that. More recent, alternative approaches of EnCoW appointments by regulators, through frameworks, is also central to our consultation.

We have established two working groups to use as vehicles for our consultation:

  1. The Heads of Planning Scotland (HoPS) – AECoW Working Group broadly focusses on planning and regulatory matters and it is chaired by HoPS;
  2. The IEMA – AECoW Working Group, which consists of IEMA and AECoW members from a range of backgrounds, including Developers/Clients, Civil Engineering Companies, Principle Contractors, Consultants and Regulators.

Separate to the above working groups, AECoW has also carried out initial consultation with CIEEM, with the intention of supporting its aims and objectives regarding the Ecological Clerk of Works (EcCoW) role as well as ICWCI about appointments and commissions of Clerks of Works.

The HoPS – AECOW Working Group 

This grew momentum in Scotland, with all Scottish environmental regulators forming part of it by the end of 2020, as well as other relevant stakeholders, as follows:

  • Local Planning Authorities (LPAs)
  • Key Agencies (SEPA, NatureScot, Marine Scotland Science)
  • Energy Consents Unit
  • The Scottish Government
  • Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA)
  • Association of Local Government Archaeological Offers.

The purpose of the Working Group is to review, clarify, and define the role of an EnCoW, predominantly for planners, by review of planning conditions, with the intention of updating / preparing guidance for LPAs. This is because AECoW believes it is critical to strengthen relevant planning, and legislation, in the first instance, as a key priority. This consultation will be informed by a legal review exercise that AECoW separately  commissioned regarding its proposed planning condition, and associated legal definitions of key industry terminology that is frequently used in relation to the role of an EnCoW, such as ‘independent’ and ‘ensure’. This is to clarify contractual, and legal roles, responsibilities/obligations and authority of all involved parties.

The HoPS – AECoW Working Group was initially focussed on planning matters, and it is anticipated that the consultation can be broadened to other government agencies (when it is considered to be appropriate), such as forestry, and highways.

In parallel with the HoPS – AECoW Working Group, AECoW is seeking to engage with regulators outwith Scotland and aims to invite them into discussions, once deliverables from the HoPS Working Group can be shared. The anticipated programme for this is during Q2 & Q3 2021. This primarily relates to the Environment Agency / National Environment Assessment Service (NEAS) regarding its EnCoW Framework, Natural Resource Wales and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Republic of Ireland EPA. These regulators will be invited, and encouraged, to share good practice and improve consistency of approaches. It is anticipated that all relevant regulators will enter into discussions throughout 2022 and it will likely take to up three years for UK planning and regulatory guidance for monitoring compliance / EnCoWs, to be developed.

IEMA – AECoW Working Group: Post Consent and Construction Phase Environmental Performance

In parallel with HoPS Working Group, a separate Working Group was established between IEMA – AECOW, and Simon Knott, AECoW Management Committee Member and, Director, Naturally Compliant, acts as a link between the two Working Groups.

The AECoW – IEMA Working Group was established to identify factors impeding post consent and construction phase performance across the UK and Ireland. Using the broad range of experiences and motivations from within the Working Group, the aim is to develop pragmatic, and viable options, and solutions, to support, and improve, construction phase performance through the sharing of good practice.

Key factors that have been identified by the Working Group include:

  • Lack of appropriate resource
  • Programme and budgetary pressure
  • Enforcement
  • Procurement process and
  • Information overload.

The Working Group aims to develop a suite of guidance documents for each factor in post consent that inhibits environmental performance, and present options / solutions for developers, contractors, regulators and consultants.

It is widely recognised within this Working Group that an appropriately commissioned EnCoW will be a key component in identifying improvement opportunities, as it is known that there are many issues surrounding the role relating to responsibility / authority and appointment of them. As such, this Working Group is actively advising UK Government to increase post consent monitoring and reporting requirements, and the EnCoW is a key role to delivering those requirements. This will support a more robust approach to achieving environmental commitments, and drive up environmental standards and compliance, so developments are delivered more in line with predicted, and consented, environmental effects.